CESI@noon: Social partner mentoring schemes as a tool for labour market integration of refugees

On Tuesday, CESI in collaboration with UNITEE, the New European Business Confederation, held another edition of its lunchtime panel debate series ‘CESI@noon’. This time, the event took place on the topic of ‘Labour market integration of refugees: the role of entrepreneurs and trade unions’. The objective was to draw attention to the integration of migrants into the labour market through a channel which has so far been mostly underexploited: Mentoring schemes for refugees which seek to create a bond of trust and stand as a catalyser for integration by pairing up employers and employees together with refugees.

CESI@noon: Social partner mentoring schemes as a tool for labour market integration of refugees

A humane reception of refugees is a topic that preoccupies many Member States but there are a multitude of integration-related issues that only begin once a person has been granted international protection, entering employment being one of them. At Tuesday’s CESI@noon event, CESI set out to discuss labour market integration from the entrepreneurial and trade unionist side.

Moderated by the Secretary General of the European Movement International, Petros Fassoulas, the event hosted key actors and experts within the field: Brando Benifei, Italian S&D MEP and currently rapporteur for a parliamentary report on social inclusion and labour market integration of refugees; Marie Boscher, legal migration and integration expert in the European Commission’s DG HOME; Elif Alduman, President of the humanitarian and development organisation KYM International; Wolfgang Müller, Managing director at the German Federal Employment Agency; and Robert Anderson, Head of Eurofound’s Living Conditions and Quality of Life research programme.

Brando Benifei: Key to achieve labour market integration without disadvantaging other groups

Mr Benifei firmly stated his belief in things being done at the local level wherever possible, and encouraging what is important for civil society and trade unions. He reported that in his report he put a focus on direct financial support to social partners working on the ground. Mr Benifei also insisted on the fact that integration must not be done at the expense of other vulnerable groups. This can be materialised by working against social dumping and not decreasing national minimum wages or preventing that resources are being channelled from other needs, he said.

Marie Boscher: Failing to invest in integration today will bring enormous costs in the future

Mrs Boscher guided the participants through an overview of recent actions launched by the European Commission in the field of migration management, including the publication of an action plan on integration and a proposal on a revision of the EU’s Blue Card Directive to attract highly skilled third country nationals on June 7. She highlighted that according the Commission, a revised Blue Card Directive would also apply to beneficiaries of international protection and permit them to carry out entrepreneurial activity alongside traditional employment. Ms Boscher was very clear that failing to invest in labour market integration today would bring disproportional costs in the future. She also reported that the Commission will pursue a pilot programme during this summer which aims to find and present best practices for migrant entrepreneurship, and explaining how and why they are so successful.

Elif Alduman, Wolfgang Müller: Labour market integration experiences in Germany and out on the field

Drawing from experiences on the ground, Elif Alduman and Wolfgang Müller spoke of their experiences in Germany and out on the field. Ms Alduman brought forward examples of refugees who had successfully invested and opened up their own businesses and recalled that the former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was the son of Syrian refugees.

Wolfgang Müller presented the German national public employment service, which is the biggest of its kind in Europe. He reported that the service makes an effort to already intervene when refugees first arrive in Germany and the decision of granting asylum is still pending. He underlined the service’s philosophy to initiate the integration process as soon as possible and even before asylum has been granted – albeit only when there is a certain likelihood that the decision will be a positive one. Mr Müller made clear that the service’s intervention policy is based on the likelihood of a positive outcome of an asylum procedure and that it is irrelevant how easy it will be to integrate a person into the labour market.

Robert Anderson: An important role for mentoring schemes by trade unions and entrepreneurs

Robert Anderson presented the work done by Eurofound on refugee integration into labour markets and the possible contributions of social partners in this context. He stressed the importance of sharing best and creative practices as concerns specific aspects related to the integration of refugees into the labour market, such as skills assessments and the recognition of qualifications. Targeted subsidies to employers for job placements may be helpful but involving workers in quality mentoring could also be an effective route, he remarked. He also said that there is an important role to be played especially by trade unions in raising awareness and giving advice to refugees with regards to accessing employment.

The Secretary General Klaus Heeger also concluded that labour market integration of refugees can also be beneficial for trade unions (see also https://euobserver.com/opinion/134381)

CESI’s work on this topic will continue as more refugees are arriving in Europe and it is increasingly important to initiate integration as soon and as all-inclusively as possible.

Picture: CESI@noon on the labour market integration of refugees © CESI 2016